Cost of Capitalism (2004)

China’s spectacular economic growth has come at a heavy price. Millions of workers have been crippled in unsafe sweatshops.

Sun Hong Yuan was literally trapped in the wheels of production. “The machine was out of control,” he recalls. “It fell down and crushed me.” Disabled and useless to his employers, he was soon fired. With his future plans in ruin, his one hope is that lawyer Zhou Litai will take on his case and help him win compensation. Zhou Litai has dealt with over a thousand similar cases. He’s become a hero to the working classes by taking on the bosses who run unsafe factories or refuse to pay their workers. “Some entrepreneurs simply seek economic profit,” he explains. “They neglect the protection of workers.” But in a society where challenging the system is highly dangerous, he knows he’s pushing his luck. Officials in a neighbouring city were even planning to run him out of town before media attention gave him a measure of protection. “He’s trying to lure the authorities into addressing this very important issue,” explains NGO worker Nicolas Becquelin. And thanks to his efforts, workers in China are discovering rights they never knew they had.

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